Ecuador: Ski Expedition Cayambe, Cotopaxi, and Chimborazo
Ecuador is a country that straddles the equator on the west coast of South America. Its diverse landscapes include the Amazon jungle, the Andean highlands and the Galapagos Islands with abundant fauna. On the slopes of the Andes, at an elevation of 2,850 m, Quito, its capital, is famous for its long-untouched Spanish colonial center, with ornate 16th and 17th-century palaces and religious sites, such as the ornate Church of the Company of Jesus.
Peru Expeditions is thrilled to be offering the Ring of Fire Ski Expedition. Our high altitude guides are also big mountain ski mountaineers. The combination of their expertise and high-end logistics that have been a priority of Peru Expeditions for over a decade, has us uniquely positioned as the first guide service to offer international, high altitude ski expeditions. We created this program as a perfect segue for backcountry skiers looking to gain the skills that will enable them to ski higher and more technical mountains. This program is for the backcountry skier who wants to become a ski mountaineer, and the ski mountaineer looking to progress to high altitude peaks.
START IN QUITO
Our ski expedition begins in Ecuador’s capital of Quito. The city, surrounded by four glaciated peaks, sits at 9,500 feet (2,896 meters), so your acclimatization begins immediately upon arrival. We spend the first day exploring the old colonial center of Quito and enjoying fantastic food and hospitality. We continue our acclimatization by riding the local telepherique to 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) on Rucu Pinchincha and then hiking to its 15,700 foot (4,785 meter) summit.
HEAD TO CAYAMBE
After spending time in Quito, we move to the town of Otavalo, which is known for its local markets and beautiful culture full of textiles and amazing food. We base out of Otavalo for a couple of days as we continue our acclimatization on day hikes, before we move up to the base of Cayambe.
Once we are settled into the hut at the base of Cayambe, we spend a full day discussing and practicing high altitude climbing and skiing skills on Cayambe’s lower glaciers. This day is essential in becoming a competent team member on this ski expedition. We will cover crampon and ice axe techniques; traveling on a rope team; snow and ice anchor placement; companion rescue; and advanced skinning techniques.
TIME TO SKI
At this point, we are ready to put our skills to use on Cayambe. We wake early to begin our climb and ski. We’ll scramble on scree, skin on mildly glaciated terrain, beginning with low angle touring, and progressing in steepness to the point of transitioning to crampons for the final section to the summit. Cayambe’s terrain will push everyone to utilize their complete skill set, while still allowing us to take in the beauty of the glaciated volcano. Once we ski down, we head back to Papallacta and visit the natural hot springs in the cloud forest of the Eastern Cordillera. If you are continuing on with the extension, we will rest and get ready to make our way to Cotopaxi. If this is the end of your expedition, we’ll wrap up and say our goodbyes having had an incredible experience skiing in Ecuador.
HEAD TO COTOPAXI
Once we settle into the lodge inside Cotopaxi National Park, we prepare to wake early for our climb and ski descent of Cotopaxi. This is a long day of climbing during which we will spend more time in crampons than we did on Cayambe. This also means that on our descent we will be able to put our more technical ski mountaineering techniques into practice, including belayed skiing. The climb and ski on Cotopaxi are much more demanding than on Cayambe and the team is rewarded with a long technical descent and unmatched views.
HEAD TO CHIMBORAZO
After a successful ski decent of Cotopaxi, we’ll head to the tallest peak in Ecuador; Chimborazo. This 20,564′ volcano is the perfect objective to cap off an epic ski expedition. It is a two-day climbing, and see our team build a high camp on day one before the final push to the summit. We’ll start our day with an early alpine start, moving up the glacier as we make our way to the summit. After a short celebration at the summit, we will start our ski descent. This technical and exhilarating ski descent will see our team weave down the snow slope as we get incredible turns at 20,000′. After a long and hard day, we’ll return to Quito and prepare to depart the following day.
CERTIFIED SKI GUIDES
All our guides are Certified professional guide by: IVBV – UIAGM – IFMGA lead/ski guides will guide our Ring of Fire Ski Expedition. Our lead guides have also traveled and climbed extensively in South America and know the Ecuadorian volcanoes intimately. Our guide’s knowledge of Andean culture and mountains, and their passion for teaching others to become competent mountaineers, guarantees that your experience will be one to remember.
Arrive into Quito (9,500 feet/2,896 meters) in the evening. Our guides will pick you up and bring you to our hotel, a local family-run place close to excellent restaurants and the tourist center of the city. (Saturday)
Explore the colonial section of Quito. This historical city is famous for its beautiful churches, president’s palace, and ever-present views of the glaciated peaks that surround it. After touring for half the day, we spend the afternoon preparing for our acclimatization climb on Pinchincha, practicing fixed line techniques, and organizing all our ski and climbing gear.
Our first acclimatization hike. We ride the telepherique from the center of the city to 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) on Rucu Pinchincha. Two hours of hiking brings us to the rock ridge, which we climb, conditions permitting to Pinchincha’s 15,700-foot (4,785 meter) summit. This climb is a proud peak on its own and it is also important acclimatization for bigger peaks.
Leaving Quito behind, you head north towards the town of Otavalo and the ancient stratovolcano known as Mojanda. Towering above the lake that fills the old crater of Mojanda lies the craggy summit Fuya Fuya (4,263m/13,986ft). This marks another wildly beautiful acclimatization hike on our path to the glaciated giants to come. Descending down to the famous textile town of Otavalo, you will be treated to historic luxury at the 18th century Hacienda Pinsaqui.
You are now ready to head to the bigger mountains. Driving east from Otavalo, you will wind up the lower flanks of the massive Cayambe (5,790m/18,996ft). The rugged stone edifice of the Refugio perched on the ridge will give you shelter and warmth during the days to come. After settling into our bunk rooms, you will spend the afternoon up on the glacier learning about the fundamentals of footwork, balance and other techniques needed to climb these big peaks. You’ll be welcomed back to the refugio with hot drinks and fantastic food prepared by the wonderful staff.
We spend the morning reviewing the skill set that we will need for climbing and skiing Cayambe. This day includes instruction on crevasse rescue, advanced glacier travel, and ski touring techniques. We spend the afternoon resting, hydrating, eating, and getting to bed early for the summit of Cayambe.
Your training and preparation are ready to be put to the test. After an early wakeup and hot drinks and snacks (typically around midnight), you’ll find yourself moving up the rock steps and onto the vast glaciers above. The rhythmic crunching of crampons, the sway of the rope, the first inklings of morning light from high above the clouds are all classic aspects of mountaineering, and will frame the first several hours of your climb. Pushing higher still, the glacier becomes complex and challenging, your team will navigate around huge crevasses and drop offs on your way to the top. Cresting just shy of 19,000ft (5,790m/18,996ft), the summit of Cayambe is a proud achievement and offers commanding views of the surrounding mountains. Off to the south, you can make out the glaciated summits of Cotopaxi, Antisana and Chimborazo. The ski line typically follows the climbing route, and arcs through crevasse and along sweeping glaciers. After the wild descent back to the refugio, you’ll head back down to Otavalo and the welcoming gardens of the Hacienda Pinsaqui.
After a casual morning and tasty breakfast we depart the Hacienda and head back to Quito. No visit to Otavalo is complete without a stop at the famed Saturday market. Otavalo is renowned for its colorful textiles, and the kaleidoscope of vivid color at the Saturday market is the place to see them. You’ll see a vast number of different vendors selling everything from textiles and clothing to spices and other foods. This is a fantastic place to find a few keepsakes from your time in Ecuador. After you’ve seen the sights and sounds of the market, it’s time to return to Quito and your flight home. For those staying on for the extension, the fun is only getting started!
Any remaining Cayambe-only team members depart Quito for home. After breakfast, climbers staying on for the extension head up to the flanks of Cotopaxi and prepare for their climb in the coming days.
Waking up in the beautiful Tambopaxi lodge, you’ll be treated to incredible views of Cotopaxi rising across the valley. Today you’ll hike up the flanks of Cotopaxi and receive training in more advanced climbing and rescue techniques and ideas. Returning for an early dinner and warm bed, it’s time to climb the second big peak of the trip.
Waking up around 1am, you’ll have some hot drinks and snacks and set out for the summit of Cotopaxi. This climb will use all the skills you learned on Cayambe as we travel on snow and ice up to the rim of the volcano. The final section of climbing will be the most difficult before you are rewarded with a stunning summit. Like Cayambe, the ski descent typically follows the ascent route. After the massive ski descent you’ll find yourself driving to the beautiful Hacienda La Cienega.
After a morning of breakfast at Hacienda La Cienega, we drive south to a wilderness lodge below Chimborazo called the Chimborazo Lodge. The lodge is owned by one of Ecuador’s original mountain guides – his stories, home, and excellent food will prepare us for our final climb.
Today we’ll move to the El Castillo camp at the base of Chimborazo’s glacier, 2 hours hike from the car. This camp is perched high on the mountain, and gets its name from “El Castillo”, the castle-like rock formation adjacent to the camp. From camp, you will see the glaciated route to the summit rise up in front of you, giving the team plenty of time to scout a good ski descent for the next day.
Your final, and most challenging, climb. The route quickly climbs the glacier, on which the ice is often broken by many crevasses as well as almost vertical ice steps. Eventually you will reach the Castillo ridge and follow it over moderate ground to the summit. After taking photos and enjoying the views from the tallest point in Ecuador, it’s time to click into your skis for the highest ski descent in the country. Evening finds the team back in Quito for a final celebration dinner.
We’ve built in an extra day for weather etc.
Fly home from Quito.
Included meals: B=breakfast; L=lunch; D=dinner
Services included in the prices:
- Acclimatization Tour as program
- Ecuatorian qualified and experienced local guide/s
- Entrance/enter fees to the National Park
- Cooks and helpers
- All meals during the tour
- Camping tents (2 persons) The North Face V25
- Transportation as tour schedule / Quito
- Pick up at the airport in Quito to the Hotel
- Transfer from the Hotel to the airport and bus station
- Hotel nights as the whole program
- International flights to Quito / Ecuador round trip
- Transfer from the airport for bookings of individual flights with different times of arrival / departure
- Exit tax at the airport in Quito
- Travel accident and health insurance (We recomended to global rescue – medical & security evacuation)
- Luggage insurance and trip cancellation
- Meals in restaurants in Cities the whole program
- Personal expenses
- Personal equipment (such as boots, ice ax, crampons, harness, sleeping bag, mat, Goretex, etc.)
- Tips for our local team
Prices & Dates
» Additional dates available upon request
» Rates may vary from July 26th to 31th for the national holidays
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Deposit for reservations: — USD (– EUR) ✓ Full payment 40 days before. No refund if you cancel less than 30 days!
Trip-code: Number ►ECU-
Duration: 17 days
Participants: Minimal: 4 Maximal: 12
Members: We don’t have an open group to join – We can open a new group – Contact us!
Country / Location: Ecuador
Mountain Guide: Eric Albino Lliuya
Other dates / additional info: Contact us!
3% early bird discount when booking 6 months prior to departure 2023
EZZ Single room supplement
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Eric Raul Albino Lliuya
Expert guide certified by AGOMP
General Sales Manager of Peru Expeditions